Friday, April 29, 2011

Roll out the carpet!

The weather in Central Illinois is holding steady. There has been lots of rain, and lots of cool days. This has been an amazing year for how long the early Spring flowers have held on. Few things are fading as quickly as years before. It has had its ups and downs.

My Crabapple is a perfect example. The last of the petals have fallen off of my Crabapple tree. The constant rain hitting the tree at peak flower caused the petals to fall straight to the ground leaving a pink blanket over the walkway to the house. It is making for the most picturesque front yard. It was really quite the sight.

The cyclic majesty of the flowering Crabapple is finished. The fresh perfect burgundy leaves are quickly opening. Only needing the shade cast by the flowers to have passed. Too soon the freshly sprung leaves will fall off too caused by the many blights that afflict plants in the Rose family.

So many people stopped to share how much they enjoyed the sight. Seeing a small yard in bloom makes the coming warmth a reality, even when the weather itself is set on another path.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Captivating Fasciated Dandelion

Fasciated mutation of Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)

I'll share a secret with you. I like dandelions. They are the bane of many a gardeners' existence, don't even say the word in front of turf specialists, but I find them absolutely captivating. I try to do my share of thinning the heard and removing as many from the yard as possible, but living next to one of the city parks, doesn't lend itself well to a winning battle.

While on the hunt this morning I found a dandelion displaying a mutation that I have seen on numerous other plants. This dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) was short. I almost missed it completely because it was long and thin and I was scanning for round yellow flowers or spiteful white puffs. The stem and the flowers all displayed the same fasciated mutation. The leaves were typical. The fasciated mutation causes a crest-shape growth habit, instead of typical (in this case round) growth. It can happen in any part of the plant. Hit the web to find details on the how, why, propagating possibilities and other fascinating details of this mutation.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spring's Sweet Scent

I have a pink flowering Crabapple in my front yard. It, along with our floor to ceiling picture window, was one of the features that made our house a charming little purchase. It's been a great place to live.

The drawback to our tree? It has an odd occurrence of fully flowering only every 2 to 3 years. It looks like this will be the magical third year. The ruby red flower buds are densely covering the entire tree. Soon those red buds will burst open and quickly fade to a lovely pink. While the color fades from bold to blush it will also be releasing a beautiful perfume. It will fill the air. The bees will hitch a ride on that fragrance too.

While the blossoms of spring cause the insect activity to increase, the whole scene makes me want to slow down and fully take them in. I like to lay on the ground with my face close to the blooms and watch the bees moving from flower to flower. You can really take in all of the aromas around when you stop and enjoy them.

The reality is that the spring blooms are short lived, and the time that I can spend laying in the grass is very little. Spring awakens all of the tasks of life that have been trapped indoors for the winter, and I must attend to more than just the garden and flowers. I will take this Spring and every spring flower I see and breath in the moments and remember them, as happiness, as Spring.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring Prairie Burn

Despite a very unfortunate recent fire in Champaign, IL eliminating two iconic restaurants on campus, usually when you see smoke from miles away in Central Illinois, it means one thing...Spring prairie burns.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Bloodroot that is twice as nice

A small gift from a friend has spread into a nice colony of brilliant white double-flowers followed by deep green leaves. If the Double-flowering Bloodroot isn't on your list of must have plants for the shade, you need to update your list.

The harbinger of spring in a woodland or shade garden.
Double-flowering Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex)

A close-up of the veins of Bloodroot shows the development of the red sap that gives this plant its name.

The same colony of Double-flowering Bloodroot from last year right at peak flowering.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reflecting on the Redbuds of Rome

Like any traveler to Rome I was amazed by the ancient ruins, the delightful family owned businesses and delicious food of the city. We were lucky enough to stay in the center of Rome overlooking the Pantheon.

I walked miles enjoying the dilapidated sites. The Tiber River lined with old Sycamore trees. Calling them ancient seems like a joke in Rome, but from the perspective of Central Illinois it is quite appropriate.  There were many protected nooks where I found old trees growing way beyond their average years. Protected from climbing, trimming, and mowing they seemed to be able to outgrow their typical descriptions. Apparently, they hadn't read the books I have. They didn't have the same assumptions, so they were able to grow outside of the given expectation and become much more.

The largest Redbud tree (Cercis siliquastrum) I've ever seen. For size comparison, there are two adults in the same plane of the tree trunk on the left of the photo. The girl is picking flowers in the foreground.

The trees that astounded me constantly in Italy were Redbud (Cercis siliquastrum) trees. Again and again the images of Redbuds that are instantly conjured up in my head come from the first time I learned about the them in my teens. I was introduced the Eastern Redbud then. I couldn't stop hearing my instructor at the time run down the details of the tree, "Redbuds are small trees, growing to about 20 feet high, by 25 feet wide...They are highly susceptible to Botryosphaeria canker, and Verticillium wilt..." with Botryosphaeria being spelled wrong in my notes. Those trees were considered short-lived trees.

A multi-stemmed Redbud tree. This tree has stood the test of time, with apparent climbing, soil compaction, and the occasional resting spot for my husband.

Cercis siliquastrum, in Rome is durable, large, and long-lived. These trees inspired the same reflection you give to so much in the city. Who saw these plants as small seedlings? Did someone nurture it? I'll probably never know the answers to the questions about the trees of Rome, but I'm grateful to have witnessed their existence.

A decorative housing for an elevator, but if you look closely at the top left, a Redbud is
trying its best to take hold. I don't believe it will stand the test of time.

Redbud taking hold (inset from above)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Early Morning Hope

I love waking up before the break of light in the mornings. The birds all sing their songs in the darkness like they know something that no other creature knows. I'm hoping that the songs are of sunny days, warmth to come, or Spring and blossoms. Here are some photos to join in the chorus with hopes of things to come.

Kerria japonica 'Flore pleno'

Prunus armeniaca

Tulipa gregii

Myosotis sp.
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